The years of raising a teenager are tumultuous and full of peril, or so it may seem. Helping your teen through the various challenges they face is an important part of your job. It can be incredibly difficult when they are secretive or resistant to your involvement. One of the most frustrating things as a parent can be watching your child live below their potential because they struggle to see exactly what their capabilities may be. When your teen is constantly operating under the assumption that they can’t do much, or they won’t amount to much… What can you do?
The Danger of a Can’t Attitude
It may seem like a phase all teenagers go through, and that might be partially true. During the teen years there is a lot of identity formation and comparison with others, which can result in a poor attitude. The attitude that they can’t succeed – in whatever realm they may try – can have very serious consequences. At first it may manifest itself in poor school performance or lack of interest in previous hobbies or activities. It may be mild, but if the Can’t attitude persists your teen may start to change in more serious ways. Beware of more intense personality changes, as they may indicate drug use or problematic behavior. It’s common for teens to experiment with drugs, especially if they feel they have no other options. When teens feel they can’t succeed they turn to drugs to ease their feelings of guilt or anxiety. They may think that marijuana or prescription drugs are safe or not harmful, but any illegal substances are tremendously dangerous for teenagers (more information on marijuana use here).
Showing Your Teen They “Can”
It’s important to do everything you can to adjust a negative or Can’t attitude in teens. They’re living such formative years and making monumental decisions, and they should be doing that from a place of hope and optimism. What can you do? The critical step is to communicate your clear opinions of their potential. Tell them honestly and frequently that you believe they can do anything they want. Tell them you know they can be the best at their chosen interests and that they deserve to be happy. A particularly helpful tool is to allow your teen to hear you praise them and their abilities to other people. Do anything you can to help your teen understand that they CAN do anything.
If it comes to the point at which you know you have done all you can, but your teen still seems to fixate on everything they CAN’T do, or unnecessarily low expectations for themselves, you can find help. Do not give up on your teen, even if they have given up on themselves.